We frequently break stories, or report on the utterings of others and use those quotes as the basis of examining an issue of national concern.
Whether that is Sharon Angle encouraging a consideration of "Second Amendment rights", by which she meant not individual gun ownership, but armed insurrection, or various Republican candidates expounding on the rights of women to privacy in their healthcare. Picking out quotations, then adding the tapestry of context is a time-honored tradition.
So when I heard a well known progressive journalist and activist make the above statement, it was apparent that sharing the news might be a positive contribution to the debate.
Let's drop below the dead orange armadillo for both the backstory, and the context.
My daughter takes the school bus. It picks her up right outside our home at around ten after eight each morning. So at eight I have taken to listening to Kagro in the Morning, a Netroots Radio show hosted by David Waldman. I put on the radio, we go wait for the bus and I listen from my workshop.
For those who have not yet discovered this service, I cannot recommend it highly enough. You all know of the rantings of Limbaugh, the ravings of Beck, and we bemoan the passing of Air America.
Well I have some news .... Netroots Radio is the perfect antidote to Limbaugh and Beck. If you are an adherent of progressive politics, it is music to the ears (Actually, there is no music, just a few really cheesy jingles and links. Give them time, it's the talking that matters).
This morning, David Waldman interviewed Timothy Lange. Tim is a journalist whose progressive credentials are unimpeachable. From his refusal of the draft in the early sixties, through the help he gave founding the Boulder Valley Women's Center and his advocacy for the rights of Native Americans, his resume is impressive.
The interview is a "must hear". The podcast will be available if you missed the broadcast and I would recommend that you listen to it, if for no other reason than you will be able to correct any misquotes by me.
The interview also covered the latest initiative by Patrick Kennedy, apparently a politician looking for a new cause and picking the wrong one, but the major part was a discussion around the current debate on gun ownership.
There were a few themes covered in the interview with David Waldman. For example, it was pointed out that discussion of firearm "actions", or the pure mechanical features of a weapon was problematic, because the real issue was not necessarily the "action" of a gun, but its capacity. The example given was that most hunting rifles and shotguns these days have a semi-automatic action, but that is not as important as the number of rounds that can be fired. From my own point of view I tend to agree. Reducing the capacity, and increasing the time taken to reload would be a major step-forward. In the Tuscon shooting the gunman was apprehended by unarmed citizens, but they had to wait until he tried to reload.
Equally disturbing were both the pathetic requirements for the issuing of a Concealed Carry Permit. Colorado was mentioned where the only real requirement is one hour of safety training, and a permit can be issued without the applicant ever having fired a gun. Any gun, any time. You could be standing in line at a supermarket, surrounded by armed citizens who have never actually fired a gun. Feel safer now?
Other matters discussed included the fact that we do not even know how many permits have been issued. Not that we don't know who those people are, we don't even know how many there are of them because in some places they have stopped counting.
The irony that is Tombstone, Arizona was given an airing. Back in 1881, Tombstone had the toughest gun control laws in the land. I know! Who would have thought that the home of the Gunfight at the OK Corral was the cradle of gun control in America. Well they realised that carrying guns in town was unhealthy for the people who lived there, so they banned them inside the City Limits and no one brought a case before the Supreme Court.
It was when the conversation turned to the "Guns are fun" bit that it raised issues that, for me, go to the heart of the "prise them from my cold, dead hands" attitudes displayed by so many.
It resonated with me because it is true. Guns are fun, I know they are and in my younger days I had a lot of fun with rifles (I was quite good .. heh)
There are a couple of side to this aspect of owning and using firearms.
They are fun to shoot. They are noisy, powerful and they smash stuff to bits. Whether you are shooting at a target, riddling a car full of holes or just enjoying the feeling, the "fun" aspect cannot be denied. Of course, all those activities take place in tightly controlled and manage environments. Ranges, clubs etcetera. Indeed there is no real need even to remove a gun from those premises. In the UK, for example, you can do all those things either with your own guns or with rentals. But the guns never leave the club or the range. When you are not using them they are locked in a safe until the next time.
Beyond the pure pleasure aspect there is something else. Guns are powerful tools, and owning one is a tangible symbol of power. In the hands of the inadequate, they confer a feeling of power, even of superiority that their individual situation does not merit. Personally, I take the view that it is that group of individuals who pose the biggest threat to us all. Yeah, I agree that it would be sensible to keep guns from those suffering from mental illness, but I think that is rather less of a concern than keeping guns from people who suffer feelings of inadequacy, and feel that owning a gun makes them more important.
You will hear in the interview how that is described when the subject of the "have a go hero" is discussed. David Waldman couldn't quite remember the video he alluded to, but it is these two, and you can see them below:
There is another factor that is related to, but different from the above. It was alluded to in the 2008 Presidential Campaign when Barack Obama was said to have referred to Mid-Westerners as "bitter people clinging to their guns and religion".
It matters not that he didn't actually say it, the damage was done. The point here is that when people are feeling anxious, stressed, facing unemployment, foreclosure, financial hardship or outright ruin, then those people do look to what can provide some comfort.
Religion provides comfort to many people. Not simply when they are feeling stressed and anxious, but because of the beliefs they hold. Clearly it is also reasonable that they would look to their comforts in times of stress to. Equally clearly, the ownership of firearms is imbued with self defense and self protection. When folk are feeling threatened it is perfectly reasonable that some comfort, however misplaced that might be, would be drawn from owning the symbols of strength and defense.
In reality, of course, the way to make people secure in their homes and lives is to improve their conditions, and secure their futures. The progressive side of the discussion attempts to do this for us all. The policies we propose would secure Americans in their homes and employment, would give them the prospect of a bright future, would actually deliver the American Dream. The Right, by contrast, provides none of this, but does ensure a steady diet of guns and religion.
A small sample of a terrific forty five minutes of radio, interspersed with my own views on the subject.
You may work out which is which, by listening to the podcast, and making that radio broadcast a regular part of your diet. I promise that you will not regret it.